Notes From The Underground: Radical Music Of The 20th Century – él Records

Where to begin. Like forever calling this collection of exemplarily works celebrates all that was worthwhile of the twentieth century, denoting times, evoking memory, lives lived and lost. Spanning four discs of undeniable pleasure living in the moment is cast aside as history is rewound spelling out the story of humanities rites of passage tuning into a panoramic view of Art, sound and all that that was radically exciting in its wake. If the needle got stuck on Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) from 1894 who would complain. Breathing life. Igor Stravinsky’s challenging intensity follows suite featuring a collections of bombastic light and shade making you feel lost in a Hitchcock or expressionistic drama of dark celluloid. Contrasts are always informative and no less so than the sonic collages from Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Schaeffer who proceed to delve into unimaginable depths of the soul pulling out incendiary fragments. Then complimented by John Coltrane’s superlative live version of My Favourite Things performed in 1961.

Listening to Edgard Varèse’s incredible 1954 World Premiere of Déserts must have seemed like aliens landing less than a mere ten years after the Second World War. However, music of a different passion is also featured providing that all important light relief in the shape of Vicente Alvarez and his Tropical Orchestra – Tango Argentino. A number of these lighter, seemingly more conventional tracks intersperse the playlist working well as distractions that make the impact of the revolutionary all the more potent. Compositions and interpretations by Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman are also present, while mere words can’t really do justice to hearing Allen Ginsburg recite Howl in all its brutal, shining glory. The wonderful Daphne Oram is here too.

The third disc is primarily given over to the poems by Edith Sitwell accompanied by the music of William Walton, a step too far perhaps but then again. Or the delicate sound of melting hearts care of Bill Evans, My Foolish Heart featuring the eloquent bass playing of Scott LaFaro sounding just like the cinema of life never changes. By the fourth CD energetic heartstrings are played Gustav Mahler’s incredibility poignant Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor IV. Adagietto, getting lost in a please don’t ever end moment this must be one of the finest ever compositions. Then, John Cage happens. From 1951. And you think radical music just happened. Out of nowhere. On the music travels.

There are a whole host of other artists not mentioned so far but isn’t that the pleasure of discovery. If you find music a serious exploit then do try this for yourself. You might get a little shocked or even surprised in the process but not dulled by disappointment. Music of genius can be said to be timeless and with release the point is correct.

Release: January 21

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A Revolution In Sound: Pop Culture And The Classical Avant-Garde – Él Records

Startling and stunning in equal measure it is exciting, certainly necessary to get shaken up once in while out of the security of familiarity. As the title of this latest collection of terse, far-out and exotically challenging sounds collide creating a template for you to do so, this is a fast-forward journey into the provocative and evocative. The junction and spirit of inspiration interlinking between Pop Culture And The Classical Avant-Garde is well documented, as indeed are the accompanying sleeve notes here, and this selection of composers, artists and sound manipulators is spread across four cd’s of undoubtable thrills. From Stockhausen to Coltrane extending the hotwire of radical improvisation to the twenty munities of Ravi Shankar’s mystically charged Raga Bilaskhani Todi, from the humanity of Debussy to Bill Evans emotive Jazz this literally plays out like a roller-coaster of emotional highs and lows. Private Dreams and Public Nightmares, created before the BBC Radiophonic Workshop was established in 1958, highlighting (again) the importance of Daphne Oram alongside Desmond Briscoe and Norman Bain with a cut-up of sight and sound is to be found here. The full 27 minutes of Pierre Henry’s Orpheus, the first major work of symphonic concrète music, is included too. All of which merely scratches the surface of a less conventional appreciation of what collections of noise are capable of, just as the beauty of Classical notation likewise ignites the soul. Things and perspective might not quite feel the same after you listen to this…

Release: May 21
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I’d Love To Turn You On – Classical and Avant-Garde Music That Inspired The Counter-Culture – él Records

A beautifully realised collection music that sees worlds collude in the interplay between sound, revolution and flying colours. Sometime in the 1960’s artists such as The Beatles took note of what was happening in the counter-cultural stream of consciousness populated by the Avant Garde. They, of course, had been tinkering at the edges of what music could be for some time but the influence provided helped shape the next generation of popular albums by expanding what the simple structure of song could be evolving from the basic refrain of I love You, plus by taking the accompanying scale of rock n roll chords to new heights.

Quite naturally Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage are ever present, as is Bernard Herrmann whose score for Hitchcock’s Pyscho remains a keynote moment in cinematic history, alongside the unmistakable Ravi Shankar and Jacques Brel. Jazz giants Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and the Bill Evans Trio, who neatly supply Autumn Leaves, also appear as do a wealth of classical composers from the wonderful Claude Debussy through to Bach. But in many ways it’s the sheer thrill of hearing pieces like Luciano Berio’s Thema (Omaggio A Joyce) with its rugged deconstruction of sound and voice that proves to be the most exciting, certainly dangerous, in ways Rhythm and Blues never was. Followed by Cage’s brutal Williams Mix which sees the clash of quarter-inch magnetic tapes create their own universe this is just about as provocative as it gets. Three CD’s span the concept, each delving into different arenas, each worth their weight in gold. From radical fire to the more traditional, there is quite literally something for everyone to treasure here.

Release: February 21

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Kubrick’s Music: Selections From The Films Of Stanley Kubrick – EL Records

Kubrick’s very best films were steeped in mystery which required you to think beyond what lay in front of you on the screen. Things you witness sat in the memory, sometimes identifying themselves, creating the underlying sense of unease: HAL. I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that. You’ll remember that dialogue from 2001: A Space Odyssey from 1968 because as much as you reverberated with fear, you also marvelled at the depth celluloid could fathom. In much the same way that The Shining and A Clockwork Orange worked. The other notable was always the accompanying soundtrack which enhanced scenes without completely overpowering them, although they did often perilously come close. This excellent four CD boxset captures some of those various moments in time from 1957’s Paths Of Glory right through to the directors final film, Eyes Wide Shut from 1999. And highlighting a lot of those transcendent screenshots are the wild and varied music from the likes of Johann Strauss II, contrasted by Gene Kelly’s ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ and the haunting ‘Midnight, The Stars & You’ by Ray Noble & His Orchestra (featuring Al Bowlly), to the then exhilarating Jazz of John Coltrane and Oscar Peterson, to name just a very few. Some of the music included was only finally used during production, to be later replaced, but as was all part of the original plan they play like an intriguing addition. In many ways, this compilation is almost too much to take in in one sitting and, like his films, require repeated viewing to fully absorb the full wealth and breadth of precisely what’s surrounding you.

Release: September 28

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